I used to tell a joke about March 4th being “Army Day” — get it? — March forth? Anyway, in 1987, all that changed. It was the year of the triple whammo. First my mom died on January 15th, 1987, then one month later, Dad with his Alzeimer’s Disease was placed in a home, then on March 4th, came the third blow.
I was spending the weekend up north at our family cottage with my boyfriend Rejean. We had taken a long weekend to enjoy some cross-country skiing. Relaxing in the afternoon in the living-room with a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire, suddenly I smelt something unusual. Rejean, I said, I smell smoke. I went into the kitchen and looking up to the ceiling, I saw smoke escaping through the ceiling tiles. I screamed to Rejean who opened the door behind the fireplace and saw flames escaping through the back of the fireplace. “The house in one fire”, he said. “Is there something you want to save?” I thought about the photo album I had shown him the week before, but, panic-striken, I couldn’t remember where it was — in the downstairs bedroom cupboard? in the upstairs bedroom cupboard?” “Never mind,” Rejean said, “grab your purse and we’re outta here.” On the way out of the kitchen, I grabbed the phone on the wall and called the fire department. Our skis were leaning against the wall in the kitchen so we pitched them into the snowbank and left the house, wading waist-deep in the snow down the unplowed road to Rejean’s car that was parked at the bottom of the hill.
We drove down the road to the fish hatchery and knocked at our friend Fred’s door. Sobbing, I said, “Fred, my house is on fire” and at that moment I cast one last look to the top of the hill where my house had stood and I will never forget that image of the flames shooting above the tree-line; the image is indelibly imprinted in my memory.